MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WTAQ) - Lawyers for men alleging sexual abuse by a Catholic priest say all trails lead to Rome and the Pope. The attorneys' remarks stem from accusations by 5 men who claim they were molested while students at a school for the deaf by the late Father Lawrence Murphy. 4 lawsuits have been filed, arguing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee knew of the abuse, yet took no civil or criminal action against Murphy.
Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan say they have uncovered documents that leave no question Vatican officials, including now Pope Benedict, were aware of the sexual abuse and that it was covered up. Anderson and Finnegan are representing the group in their case.
But the Vatican says it's the media's fault. An editorial in the official Vatican newspaper claims global media are engaged in what it calls an "ignoble attempt to strike at Pope Benedict and his closest aides at any cost." The defense was mounted in reaction to fresh allegations that an American priest in Wisconsin abused more than 200 deaf boys for 24 years.
The case against Reverend Lawrence Murphy was never prosecuted. Murphy appealed to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- who is now Pope -- for clemency because Murphy claimed he had repented, was old and was dying. Ratzinger's deputy first ordered a trial, but that was abandoned following Murphy's appeal. Murphy died later the same year, in 1998. The Vatican concedes Murphy was not disciplined but contends there was, "no cover up in the case of Father Murphy."
Separately, a high-ranking aide to the pope, Saraiva Martins, met with reporters and accused the media of what he called "a conspiracy" against the Catholic Church. He said unnamed people are using the sexual abuse scandal as "a pretext for attacking the Church." He also claimed lawyers are just trying to make money by seeking out sex abuse cases from decades ago, and filing legal action against the Church.
The Vatican has been disgraced by recent additional allegations of sexual abuse by priests of children in Germany, Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands and the U.S. The Pope issue a pastoral letter of apology that was read from Irish pulpits last Sunday. The message expressed his "shame and remorse" for the suffering caused by priests, and added he is "truly sorry."
On Wednesday, 4 Americans from the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests demonstrated outside the Vatican, demanding the pontiff release the Church's files about pedophile priests. They also demanded that priests who are sexual predators be defrocked. For their efforts, police seized their passports and grilled them for two hours before they were released.